Saturday, March 12, 2011

Homemade Strawberry Jam, An Addendum

With regard to frozen strawberries - I used frozen strawberries when I made my last batch of jam. I won't do this again and I don't suggest you do either. My usual jam is drippy compared to regular jelly/jam from the store. But the frozen strawberries made REALLY, SERIOUSLY, CRAZILY drippy jam. So, I don't recommend it, even though it was majorly easy compared to the usual wash/hull/chop method.

Jam on,

~ HD

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Homemade Strawberry Jam

It is snow day #82 in 2 weeks around here. Well, maybe snow day #5, but it feels like more. During yet another canned-biscuit-breakfast last week, the kids were lamenting the lack of my homemade strawberry jam since we ran out of the last summer batch a couple of months ago. So, I got supplies when anticipating today's snow day and here we are, making a somewhat summery treat in snowy winter.

My jam isn't truly jam in the pectin, boil-the-jars, way. It's more of a drippy jam made with 3 simple ingredients and then I put it in jars and freeze after it cools off. It only takes overnight in the fridge to thaw and it's really yummy. It's also good on ice cream.

I normally buy a 2-lb basket of strawberries and then wash, hull, and chop them. But it's not good strawberry season and I found a giant bag of frozen strawberries at the sto'. The ingredient list just says: "Strawberries." So, I'm happy with that. In fact, I'm excited! It will get going a lot faster! I would not suggest buying pre-sweetened frozen strawberries.

So, the ratio I like best is about 4 cups of chopped, packed strawberries to about 3 cups of sugar. I will thaw the frozen ones before I measure. You put them in a heavy-bottomed stockpot along with the sugar and 1/4 cup of lemon juice. Heat on low until the sugar is dissolved and then turn it up to high. The mixture needs to get to a rolling boil and then ideally reach 220 degrees - I have NEVER been able to both get it to 220 and also have it not burn to the bottom of the pan. I can slowly stir and scrape the bottom while it boils and get it to 215 degrees. So, know that 220 is ideal, but you'll be good either way. It is more important to me not to have to scrape burned pieces of ick from the pan.

It will take a LONG TIME to reach the proper hour or so. Then, when you're done (you'll know because you will swear you never want to see a strawberry again and you will have burned yourself with hot strawberry syrup at least twice), you can ladle into clean jars. I buy the small, pretty Mason jars. Ladle it in, put on the tops and lids, and wait for them to cool. Refrigerate them once cool, and once they're cooled off to refrigerator temp, put the ones you won't eat right away into the freezer.

The bag of strawberries I had today turned this into a double batch, or almost. So, just FYI, these pictures will look like more than I describe above.

This is just getting started.

Rolling boil...

Filled jars - be careful filling them! HOT!

*All Done*

Strawberry Fields Forever,

~ HD

Mom of Fred and Ginger
Wife of Mr D
Jammer of Jamminess

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Baked Beans the Mr. D Way

You know it's bad when my own internet browser doesn't automatically remember my own blog's address when I start typing it because it's been so long since I posted. Sigh...

Mr. D has always liked to cook, although I use the word "cook" loosely. He is more into experimental mess-making and, as noted previously, he would eat a shoe if you put BBQ sauce on it - so, that means he thinks his experiments are gooooo-oooood. Green tea flavored Jello comes to mind (he used green tea instead of water to make a package of unflavored gelatin). There was even an attempt at chocolate Jello using a similar method. His favorite and most-often-consumed meal from his bachelor days? Waffle sandwiches. Why buy sandwich bread when you can buy frozen waffles? So, toast some waffles and spread and stack them with mayo, mustard, at least 2 kinds of cheese, potted meat (which should not even exist IMO), bologna, ham, turkey......all at one time.

So, it comes as a surprise to all, but me especially, that his baked beans are really, really good. To wit:

For a 9 x 13 pan of baked beans, you need two of the big cans of baked beans (yes, this is really just dressing up existing baked beans, but it makes them way better). We use Bush's brand and, since they have a seemingly unnecessary number of varieties, I always get two different ones for the heck of it. Here, I did Original and Onion.

I mix all the stuff right in the 9 x 13 pan because, not only am I all about cooking good food, I am also all about avoiding doing the dishes. So, to the beans add:

- A big, giant squirt of regular mustard. I know that's an awfully technical measurement, but you can do it.
- About 3/4 of a cup of brown sugar (not that I've ever measured that either, but still)
- About 1/4 cup of REAL bacon bits/pieces if you have them (I didn't actually put any this time)
- A few shakes of Worcestershire sauce
- Some minced garlic - I used the stuff from the big, cheap Costco jar so I went a little heavy handed. I would say maybe a tablespoon of that kind or a teaspoon of fresh minced garlic.

You mix all this up in the pan and then put strips of bacon over the top. Mmmmm........bacon...... Then, for extra flavor, sprinkle a little more Worcestershire sauce on the bacon.

Cook at 350-375 degrees for 45-60 mins - basically long enough to get it all bubbly and to cook the bacon. I usually end it with about 5 minutes of low broiling just for good measure so that the bacon is crispier. I don't know why anyone in the the world would want chewy bacon.

Before the mixing

Ready for the oven!

And finally, a very bad angle of the beany bliss.

Peace, Love, and Dinner,

~ HD

Mom of Fred and Ginger
Wife of Mr. D
Believer in Bacon and Beans

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Poppity, Pop, Pop - POPTARTS!

I'm sorry, what? Huh? Another post already? Are pigs flying?

So, it is beyond me how I never before thought of homemade poptarts. You take pie crust, any manner of filling, and voila....way-better-than-from-a-box-Poptarts. My BFF made some last week so I copied her and I'm so glad I did.

Ideally, one would make homemade pie crust...but let's get serious. I bought the fold-out refrigerated pie crust. And basically, you just put a filling inside two pieces of dough - or one piece that you foldover - and crimp the edges. Then, bake like the pie crust package says. Mine was at 450 degrees for 12-14 minutes.

So, for the dough part, one could do many different things. You could trace an actual poptart onto the dough and make exact-sized ones. You could cut the pie dough into squares or rectangles and then put a blob of filling in the middle of one half and fold over the other half. You could use a round or square cookie cutter to make a bunch of cutouts and then put one on top of the other. I made two batches and, for the first one, I made random-sized squares and rectangles (using a pizza cutter, definitely the way to go when cutting pie dough) and did the foldover method. These ended up being really small, but perfectly fine. Then, for the 2nd batch I used the biggest round cookie cutter I have and made a bunch of circle cutouts.

We tried the following fillings:
  • Strawberry jam - For the first batch, I used my homemade strawberry jam, which is kinda drippy because it doesn't have pectin in it. It was really a little too thin and dripped out. For the 2nd batch, I used store-bought strawberry preserves and it worked better. Everyone liked the strawberry ones a LOT, including me.
  • Blackberry jam - this is also homemade jam that I made, but this is way thicker and spreadable. Presumably all the blackberry seeds have something to do this. I've only made blackberry jam once. Anyway, not that you asked - we're talking Poptarts, not jam. Mr. D was the biggest fan of the blackberry jam ones.
  • Nutella - sweet holy cow, these were morsels of wonderful goodness. We loved the Nutella ones.
  • Peanut butter and chocolate chips - not meaning peanut butter chips, but actual peanut butter with chocolate chips then sprinkled on the top. These were pretty good but weren't the hit I thought they'd be. We used crunchy peanut butter, so next time I'd try creamy.
  • Apple butter - these were my favorite only because they reminded me of fall. The kids really liked them too, though. The apple butter is a really good consistency for these.
Other filling ideas:
  • Just plain chocolate or a chocolate ganache.
  • Marshmallow cream and peanut butter, like a fluffer-nutter sandwich.
  • Other flavors of jams and preserves.
  • Orange marmalade for Mr. D, although the thought makes me nauseous.
  • Savory fillings, although I'm aware that's a little pot-pie and not a Poptart.
After you fill your tart and either fold over or add a top piece, crimp around the edges with a fork and really go all the way down with the tines so the two pieces of dough kind of combine and it will be less likely to pop open as it cooks. I put a little knife slit in the middle of each tart so steam could escape and the poptart wouldn't puff up too big. Also, on one batch, I brushed butter on the tops just for good measure. I liked that touch but no one else seemed to notice. Losers.

Then, bake as directed and let them cool for a while. We topped ours with glaze (1.5 cups of powdered sugar mixed with 4 tablespoons of milk...ish) and, while we didn't put a ton on them, the fillings were so sweet that they really just needed a drizzle.

My only other thought is that next time, I might roll out each dough piece a little and make it thinner. The poptarts were really good but the ratio of dough to filling was way heavy on the dough side. I think the dough might be better just a little thinner.

Okay wait, I do have another thought. These didn't even last the whole day at our house between us all trying every kind and sharing some with family, but I plan to make another batch soon and cook them until they're just barely done. Then I'll cool them and freeze them and then pull some out for school mornings and put them in the toaster to re-heat them. I'll let you know how it goes.

In the meantime, here is some photographic evidence of the deliciousness:

One of the foldover versions that I filled with strawberry jam.
The pan of foldovers before they went in the oven.
After they baked, some have been iced.
The round ones after I got smart and used a cookie cutter.

Peace, Love, and Poptarts,
Mom of Fred and Ginger
Wife of Mr. D
Paramour of Poptarts

Friday, April 23, 2010

Mmmmmm......Sausage Balls......

My mom made sausage balls when I was a kid and I truly love them with all my being. It's basically a biscuit mix with cooked sausage and shredded cheese mixed in. They are super-easy to make and our whole family loves them (shocking). I make them for breakfast and sometimes I make them for Sunday-who-really-cooks-a-meal-on-Sunday-night?-dinner. We eat them with grape jelly and sometimes even with apple butter, although I realize that's weird.

So, basically, you brown/crumble a package of regular breakfast sausage. Then, following the instructions for biscuits on the Bisquick box, you make them just like it says only you mix in the crumbled sausage and a good cup or cup and a half of shredded cheese.

Sausage Balls

2 cups of Bisquick
2/3 cup of milk
1 lb browned, crumbled sausage
1 - 1 1/2 cups of shredded cheese

Mix it all up and then drop by spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet and cook for 8-10 mins at 450 degrees, just like the regular Bisquick biscuit recipe says.

Various Tips, which you can completely ignore and they'll still be good:

- I use a spoon to drop jagged lumps of dough on the cookie sheet because all the jagged places get good and crunchy, thereby furthering my enjoyment.

- I mix the dry Bisquick, sausage, and cheese together before adding the milk because the milk makes it all cohesive and gummy really fast. It's harder to mix the sausage and cheese in after the dough is already made.

- I always go for the high end of the shredded cheese amount becuase.....well, really, because it's fabulous, glorious cheese and makes the world (and sausage balls) better. I prefer the thicker kind of shredded cheddar.

The Finished Product

My husband's cousin makes really great sausage balls a whole different way by mixing the raw sausage and cheese together with the Bisquick (I think just a cup) - like mixing and incorporating everything together with your hands like you would a meatloaf. Then make little 1-inch rolled-up balls that you then cook in the oven until the sausage is done. It is messy (that's what disposable gloves are for) but they make the most fabulous little balls of greasy goodness. I still prefer the more biscuit-y kind, probably because it's what I grew up with, but it's also quicker and easier. But his way is extra good like on a buffet table at Christmas or something.

Peace, Love, and Dinner,


Mom of Fred and Ginger
Wife of Mr. D
Lover Extreme of Sausage Balls

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Bad Injury, Good Pie

Really? It's been a month since I posted? Whatever, I suck.

Anyway, today's installment is Vidalia Onion Pie. We got some awesome Vidalia onions on the farmer's market. I had an onion pie years ago but had never tried making it; it's kind of an onion quiche. I used the recipe found here: except I didn't make my own crust because.....come on.

So, while slicing the onions on my mandoline with no guard, I sliced a dime-sized chunk out skin out of my thumb. Could not feel more stupid. Much yelling, crying, belly-aching, and bleeding ensued. Several bandaids and a plastic glove barrier later, I finished the pie.

After all that mess and then getting the onions, sour cream, eggs, and flour mixed up in a bowl, I forgot to add salt and pepper. I didn't realize this until the pie was fully ready to go in the oven and I had already washed the bowl to make something else, so I didn't want to dump it all back out to add it. 

The recipe says to cook it for 20 mins at 450 degrees, then reduce the temp to 325 for 20 more minutes. Surely it takes quite a while to cool down from 450 to 325, thus actually cooking somewhere in between for a big chunk of that last 20 mins, but who am I to argue. After the first 20 mins at 450, the top and crust were VERY brown, but I went ahead and did as it said. The last 20 mins at 325 made it even browner but it really turned out okay. 

We got slices and it smelled so good, that even though it was an "onion pie", our daughter wanted to try some. She took a bite and said: "It needs salt."


And she was right - after some added salt and pepper, it was really good. I would definitely make it again. Would be great at a brunch. Next time, I'll find the guard before I start slicing the onions.

Peace, Love, and Safety First,


Mom of Fred and Ginger
Wife of Mr D
Forgetter of Salt and Pepper

Friday, February 19, 2010

Manicotti - Way Simpler Than I Thought

Seriously, it's been so long since I wrote on here that my web browser didn't even automatically fill in when I started typing in the website. Sigh... But it's not because I haven't been cooking, because I have! Yay me! Just haven't been writing often enough. Boo me.

I made a really easy manicotti the other night and everyone loved it. A huge feat, as you know. I love getting manicotti in restaurants and it is one of those things that I would just rather let other people cook - drippy noodles, etc, etc. But, turns out it's so easy that I will be doing it again.

First, the noodles. There's no need to fully boil them to where they are completely noodle-y and hard to handle. I read to try it this way: boil a pot of water and then take it off the stove and throw in the noodles for 5 minutes and let them sit there. They get done enough that you don't have to worry about them being too hard, and yet they are still a little stiff and easier to fill.

For the filling:

3 cups of shredded mozzarella
2 cups of ricotta
1/2 cup grated parmesean cheese
1 egg
2 tablespoons dried basil
1 clove (or more) of minced garlic

2 jars of your favorite pasta sauce

Grease a casserole pan and pour some of the pasta sauce over the bottom of the pan to cover it. Then, mix all the filling stuff up in a bowl and then spoon it in a gallon size baggie. Snip a good size chunk off the corner of the baggie and use it to stuff the shells. Lay the shells in the pan. Then, cover the filled shells with the rest of the pasta sauce. I used Bertolli's regular marinara. Then, 1 more cup on mozzarella shredded on the top.

Cook uncovered for about 25 minutes in a 350 degree oven. We had salad with it and it was great. The pasta sauce I used was good, but bear in mind the sauce you use can make or break the dish. Be sure it's one you like.

The bowl of filling ingredients before I mixed.

Into the oven!

After we'd already eaten some because I forgot to take a picture.

So, there you have it! More stuff to come soon!

Peace, Love, and Dinner,


Mom of Fred and Ginger
Wife of Mr D
Lover of All Combinations of Pasta, Cheese, and Sauce